A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...they used to make what we call anthology films. And they usually were superb. For the unfamiliar, an anthology film is a movie comprised of usually 4 or 5 shorts, and there's usually a wrap-around that is woven throughout as connective tissue, even though the stories themselves don't usually have anymore of a connection past that, and the story usually always ends up in a very ironic twist. There have been many different formats for the genre, from the original classics from the 70's like the original "Tales From The Crypt" and "Vault of Horror", to the more contemporary films like "The ABC's of Death" or the "VHS" series. Up until recent years the ultimate anthology film was the original "Creepshow", for me. You had a star-studded cast, George A. Romero directing, Stephen King writing the screenplay, and Tom Savini doing special effects. That's a dream team if there ever was one, right? Well, yes and no. Upon recent viewing, I was a bit disappointed that the film hasn't exactly held up well over the years. It still certainly has that early 80's charm to it, it's fun and kitschy, and you can tell it was a labor of love, but the stories themselves just really don't hold up to be that interesting. Now, due to the format, I'll review each story kind of individually, then give an overall score.
I mentioned the wrap-around, which is usually the little story that is told in between segments and holds the movie together. In this case, we see a little boy reading an old horror magazine, and his dad berates him for it, tells him it's garbage, etc. Then we see the skeleton from the magazine come to life, and the rest of the movie is told in a comic book format, with comic frames, transitions, title pages, etc. It's a very interesting touch, but unfortunately pretty dated.
The first story, titled "Father's Day", is pretty bizarre and I always wondered why they started out with this one. It's not really the one that I'd play first to get someone hooked, ya know? We're introduced to this very uppity, well to do family, who are having a dinner at their estate, to celebrate Father's Day. Aunt Bedelia, whom the family are waiting on to arrive, stops at her father's grave and starts going on about how bad of a father he was. From what I could gather, her father had her husband killed, and the family resented him for it, so his daughter knocked him off. Naturally, Father comes back up out of the ground, disposes of Bedelia, constantly yelling that he wants his cake! He goes back to the house and inevitably takes his revenge on the family, ending with him finally getting his "cake". I don't really care much for this story at all, and I'd venture to say it's the least interesting of them all. The wealthy family are about as cliché as you get, and there's not one character in this that you even want to survive. On the plus side, the atmosphere is decent when it's outside and we get a performance from a very young Ed Harris. But overall, this one is average at best. 5 out of 10.
Story number two, which is probably my favorite, is titled "The Lonely Death of Jordy Verrill", with the entire story about one guy, the titular character, in a brilliant performance by none other than Stephen King himself. King has made multiple cameos in his films, but his starring performance in this story is the best part of the entire movie. He plays Jordy, a lonesome and simple farmer, living out on his farm, where one night, a meteor crashes in his field. He runs to check it out, touching it, and ends up unleashing a gas or vapor from it. He sees dollar signs, thinking he can sell it to the local college. After going back inside, he notices his fingers that made contact with the meteor have started to blister and inch. We then see glimpses of the fields and property outside, where this mossy fungus has started taking over, obviously from the meteor. It starts to invade the entire property, inside of his house, and then even himself. He goes to take a bath, where he has an odd vision of his dad, telling him that the water is what "it" wants and that he'll be a goner. He gets in the tub, and flash forward a little bit of time, we see him come to and he's been taken over by the fungus. He grabs a gun, prays that luck will be on his side, and he shoots himself the head. We then see where this fungus has continued to grow and is headed toward surrounding cities, where the voice of a weatherman tells us due to rain, the city will be green in no time. The story itself isn't a great tale, but it's fun, and again, Stephen King's performance is worth watching the movie for. 8 out of 10.
Another pretty odd one, "Something to Tide You Over", stars Ted Danson and Leslie Nielson, who I've been a lifelong fan of. Harry (Danson), receives a knock on his door, only to be confronted by Richard, played by Nielson. Apparently, Harry has been having an affair with Richard's wife, and he's come to deal out revenge. He takes him hostage essentially, and drives him out to a private beach, where he buries him up to his neck in the sand. He shows him a tv screen, that has a live feed of the same thing being done to Richard's wife, struggling for her life as the tide begins washing up on the shore. Richard leaves them both to drown, until he goes home and later in the night, is visited by the two lovers, now water-logged zombies. He tries to shoot them, but his bullets have no effect. Duh, they're already dead! Anyway, at this point, Richard is obviously driven to insanity, and he ends up getting the same justice he'd given out, being buried in the sand, waiting for the tide, where he proclaims that he can hold his breath for a looooooooong time. Like the first, not a great story. They certainly tried to add a more personal touch with the affair drama, but it didn't have *that* big of an effect. Unfortunately, the nature of this format really gives you no time to care about the characters, so in a story like this one where you need to actually care about the characters, it falls flat and is uninteresting. The saving grace is Leslie Nielson, who is great in anything he does, but he's really the only bright spot. 5 out of 10.
Thankfully, we end on a high note with two final, pretty good stories, the first titled "The Crate". While cleaning, a janitor at a college discovers a dirty old crate under a stairwell. He calls Professor Stanley to come check it out, and they see that according to the information on the crate, it's been there since the late 1800's, and is something from arctic expedition. The janitor makes the mistake of putting his arm in the crate, and gets eaten by this creature that favors the Abominable Snowman from the old Christmas cartoons. Meanwhile, we're introduced a Henry, played by Hal Holbrook and his obnoxious wife Wilma, played by a spot on Adrienne Barbeau. Henry is a fellow professor, who entertainingly fantasizes about ways to kill his verbally abusive wife, to shut her up for good. So Henry finds out about the creature in the crate, and hatches a plan. I'm sure you can see where this is going. He drugs Stanley, knocking him out so he won't interfere with the plan, which is creating a story to get Wilma to show up at the crate. Wilma gets her comeuppance and is mauled by the monster, and Henry chains and locks the crate up, drops it in the ocean, and we assume the creature is released yet again. This story has always been a fan favorite, and rightfully so. The acting is great, and unlike the others, even though we're given a short time, we quickly learn to care for these people. Adrienne Barbeau is so good at making you just detest Wilma over the way she treats poor Henry, and we get the outcome we hoped for. My only complaint about this one is I never was entirely sold on the design of the monster. Compared to other creature designs and special effects of that time, it pales in comparison. It's a vague and somewhat generic design, but I guess it serves it's purpose. 8 out of 10.
The finale is aptly titled "They're Creeping Up On You", a very fitting title. We're introduced to Upson Pratt, a seemingly reclusive and vile business tycoon, who lives in an absolutely clean and sterile apartment. Completely germ and dirt free, white floors, walls, and ceiling, he is a somewhat neurotic and obsessive germaphobe. Heartless, as well, as he gets a phone call, his only form of communication to the dirty, outside world, informing him that a man he just fired has committed suicide. He's actually entertained and pleased by this. Unfortunately for him, he begins to see cockroaches in his apartment. He has many ways to get rid of them, even calling the superintendent, but to no avail. We all know what cockroaches do, as they quickly multiply and take over the apartment. I won't spoil exactly what happens to Mr. Pratt, but you can probably guess. First off, they did a great job at making you hate Pratt. He's a classic Mr. Scrooge type guy, and the kind of character you love to see get their just due. To me, the effectiveness of this story relies mostly on your feelings on bugs, and roaches in particular. For someone like me, who isn't particularly terrified of roaches, the scare factor isn't that great. I mean, it's unnerving to watch, but not scary. On the flip side, if you're one of the many that are horrified by bugs/roaches, I can see this really bothering you. I know many people who struggle to make it through this one, for that reason. 7 out of 10.
The final segment of our wrap-around shows some garbage men, who find the little boy's horror comic in the trash, after the boy's father throwing it away obviously. As they flip through it, we see that an ad in the magazine for a voodoo doll has been cut out, and cut to the boy, who has the voodoo doll and is taking his frustrations out on his obnoxious father. End of story. So I end up kind of torn about this movie. As a whole, it comes across as very dated, which isn't always a bad thing, except when it's dated AND boring. The bulk of 2 of the 5 stories are really just boring and not that interesting to watch, save for an entertaining performance here and there, and I think the talent involved really should have knocked it out of the park even more than they did. Thankfully, the 3 stories that *are* good are actually pretty fun and entertaining and definitely worth checking out.
Creepshow gets 7 cockroach infestations out of 10